- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

Two Montgomery County biotechnology companies are joining forces to discover and develop a new drug that will treat an unspecified inflammatory disease.

Gaithersburg biotechnology company MedImmune Inc. and Avalon Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Germantown biopharmaceutical company, said earlier this week they combined their efforts to develop at least one new therapeutic drug.

Under the terms of the deal, MedImmune, which makes the flu-vaccine inhaler FluMist, has access to Avalon’s drug-discovery engine, AvalonRx, to identify small-molecule therapeutic compounds for a new drug.

Small-molecule drugs, which can be taken orally, can penetrate cell membranes and the blood brain barrier more easily than larger-molecular-weight compounds like proteins, peptides and carbohydrates.

MedImmune has the option of initiating a similar deal with Avalon for two more small-molecule drug discoveries.

“We look forward to investigating Avalon’s proprietary drug discovery technology with the hope that our combined efforts will lead to developing new treatment options for patients suffering from debilitating diseases,” said Edward T. Mathers, MedImmune’s senior vice president for corporate development.

MedImmune spokeswoman Clarencia Stephen would not say which debilitating disease the two companies are investigating.

Avalon receives an upfront payment, research and development support, milestone payments and royalties from any drugs that are marketed.

The privately held company, which focuses on the discovery and development stage for mostly cancer drugs, would not disclose exact terms for those payments and support.

MedImmune will pay for the preclinical and clinical testing, sales and marketing for any drug candidates that come from the venture, the companies said.

The deal is the first major focus for Avalon outside its main cancer focus, said Chief Executive Officer Ken Carter.

“We are excited to be MedImmune’s first partner in the discovery and optimization of small-molecule therapeutic compounds,” Mr. Carter said.

An Avalon spokeswoman said the company would not comment further because it is in a “quiet period” mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission after filing in May for an initial public offering.

Both companies have partnered with other biotechnology companies in other areas to advance their drug development.

Avalon, with 45 employees, has worked with Aventis, Medarex Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

MedImmune, with 1,900 employees, has formed alliances with Abbott Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline and Schering Plough Corp.

ER salaries rise

The national average salary for an emergency medicine physician is expected to reach $177,678 this year, according to a recent study by an Oakland, N.J., health care consulting firm.

The report, by Hospital and Healthcare Compensation Service, surveyed 17,650 doctors in 273 health facilities nationwide. The average salary did not include bonuses, benefits or additional compensation.

Health Care appears Fridays. Contact Marguerite Higgins at 202/636-4892 or at mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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